Be vigilant about the latest refund scam, writes Isaac Moledi

Be extra cautious of fraudsters as the festive season approaches and shops gear up for the big spend.

Be extra cautious of fraudsters as the festive season approaches and shops gear up for the big spend.

Buying online with your credit card can be convenient, but be cautious. Last year South Africans lost millions of rands to online credit card fraud, as well as debit card and ATM scams.

A refund scam is now doing the rounds. It goes like this: a fraudster deposits worthless cheques into your bank account. You are informed that a deposit was mistakenly made into your account. The fraudsters request an immediate refund and provide the bank account details where the refund must be made. They usually request an electronic transfer and so you, the sucker, are out of pocket for whatever amount has been transferred to the con artists.

Experts say criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and that means that you have to be extra vigilant about personal information, including credit card numbers or debit card PIN numbers.

Some useful hints:

l Don't use birth dates or words that can be easily deciphered. Use a combination of non-sequential letters and numbers as a password.

l Shred anything with a signature or any personal information that can be used to set up accounts or order merchandise in your name.

l Download software updates or patches for your operating system regularly.

l Invest in a robust anti-virus software package and make sure that you update these regularly with dedicated downloads that can neutralise new virus strains.

l Don't use websites that ask you to register your financial details on the site.

l Never open any unsolicited e-mails because this can give fraudsters the hook to record every keystroke you make on your computer.

l If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don't give money to an unidentified source with the promise of a return on an investment or buy into a business opportunity without properly examining all the angles or pay for something before receiving it.

l Check bank statements and bank accounts regularly.

l If there is a problem, contact your card division immediately.

l Before registering any information on a website, make sure the website's security certificate is valid.

l Print a receipt of all online transactions or successful transactions that have been completed as proof of payment.

l If you are a bank account holder, don't pay a refund before verifying that the deposit is valid.